Henry V

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seen 21 October, Haydn English Cinema Vienna

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Gregory Doran

Having staged both parts of Henry IV last year, the RSC kindly brought us Henry V just in time for the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt with the same company.

Last year, I was fretting about this event in my blog posts about Henry IV part one and two because I couldn’t see Alex Hassell as king Henry V. Continue reading

Othello

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Seen August 26 2015, Haydn English Cinema Vienna

Directed by Iqbal Khan

Firstly, apologies to my regular readers for the lack of new content recently. My day job made it impossible to find the time to write up a review of the last live broadcast, The Merchant of Venice. Not that there was much so say about it except for it relying too heavily on Patsy Ferran and Shylock being too smirkily knife-happy for my taste with no visible conflict, but festered rage and bitterness instead. Pity, this can be done so much better as proven by Graham Greene’s dignified Shylock in the other Stratford in 2007.

We went to London last weekend to see Three Days in the Country and Hamlet (yes, that one) however and I hope I can squeeze in a night at the theatre during a business trip to London in a few weeks, so there is new stuff coming up.

But now on to the next of the bard’s plays that can be problematic to stage nowadays: Othello. Let’s start with what we see first: Continue reading

Love’s Labour’s Won (Much Ado About Nothing)

Seen: March 4, live broadcast at Haydn English Cinema Vienna

Cast: Sam Alexander, Peter Basham, William Belchambers, Edward Bennett, Nick Haverson, John Hodgkinson, David Horovitch, Tunji Kasim, Sophie Khan, Oliver Lynes, Emma Manton, Chris McCalphy, Frances McNamee, Peter McGovern, Chris Nayak, Jamie Newall, Roderick Smith, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Michelle Terry, Harry Waller, Thomas Wheatley

Directed by Christopher Luscombe

What I am starting to realise after nearly one and a half years of RSC and NTL broadcasts is that the RSC productions really fail to knock me out of my boots. This is especially disappointing because there are so many ways Shakespeare’s work can be interpreted and brought to stage other than just reciting the words. While they are all good and nice, ‘nice’ is probably the worst thing I can say about a theatre production. It’s the equivalent of a band playing their album note for note and then leaving the stage; I could have listened to that – or in case of theatre read the playtext – at home. Actually, I even prefer strongly disliking a production if I can respect what those involved tried to do. If you’ve read my reviews of The Ruling Class and A Midsummer Night’s Dream you might have noticed how much I appreciate when having balls actually pays off.

I held back on writing this thinking that maybe I would see things a bit differently after having finished the online course connected to the production (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/much-ado-about-nothing ) but, alas, no. While that course was so much better than the Hamlet one (I can honestly say I haven’t learned anything new except the professor’s obsession with Freud) and those from the RSC involved all seem like very nice people (in case of people, my above definition of ‘nice’ of course does not apply in the least), the most innovative things about the production remain calling it Love’s Labour Won, following the theory this is actually the one Shakespaeare play thought to have been lost and making it a companion production to Love’s Labour’s Lost (see iwishyoumuchmirth’s review https://butmadnorth.com/2015/02/12/loves-labours-lost/) and moving it from Messina to England after WWI.

The setting was a bit unusual in the beginning, but it made sense and the Christmas tree was a great prop, especially for Edward Bennett’s Benedick. Both Bennett and Michelle Terry (Beatrice) were very good, even if Terry seemed to have momentarily forgotten she was wearing a microphone, so she was painfully shrill at the very beginning. Bennett also proved apt at adapting to unforeseen situations like a rather vocal patron or his own corpsing.

Setting the play this close to the 20s allowed for some entertaining musical numbers as well as great costumes. While I’m generally not the biggest fan of Shakespeare’s comedies and there are of course a lot of issues viewing them as a woman born in the 1970s instead of 1600s, Much Ado is actually the one I do like because I enjoy the quickfire bantering between the two perceived as the main characters even though in fact they hardly have any time together on stage.

I usually find more humour in the tragedies, so I might not be the best person judging this production. I can for example never relate to the audience laughing at ‘Kill Claudio’. The play is however one my sister’s favourites, so maybe she wants to add her view.

To sum it up: it was an entertaining time in the cinema, but I wouldn’t want to watch this again.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

11 February, 2015
broadcast live from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon

by William Shakespeare

Cast: Sam Alexander, Peter Basham, William Belchambers, Edward Bennett, Nick Haverson, John Hodgkinson, David Horovitch, Tunji Kasim, Sophie Khan Levy, Oliver Lynes, Emma Manton, Chris McCalphy, Frances McNamee, Peter McGovern, Chris Nayak, Jamie Newall, Roderick Smith, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Michelle Terry, Harry Waller, Thomas Wheatley, Leah Whitaker, featuring Teddy the Bear

directed by Christopher Luscombe

Continue reading

Henry IV, Part 2 – RSC live broadcast

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From Rumour’s tongues
They bring smooth comforts false, worse than true wrongs.

Henry IV, Part 2 – June 18, 2014

Directed by Gregory Doran

Cast: Elliot Barnes-Worrell, Martin Bassindale, Jasper Britton, Antony Byrne, Sean Chapman, Paola Dionisotti,  Oliver Ford-Davies, Nicholas Gerard-Martin, Jonny Glynn, Robert Gilbert, Nia Gwynne, Alex Hassell, Jim Hooper, Youssef Kerkour, Jennifer Kirby, Sam Marks, Keith Osborn, Leigh Quinn, Joshua Richards, Antony Sher, Simon Thorp, Trevor White, Simon Yadoo

This was the second part to last month’s Henry IV Part 1 live broadcast from the RSC. It started once again with Suzy Klein interviewing Gregory Doran, who gave a short ‘previously on Henry IV’ overview followed by a quick analysis of the changing tonality and themes in the second part compared to the first.

I thought the interval interview with Antony Sher was very interesting and maybe gave those in the audience who did not have access to these plays before a glimpse into how an actor approaches a new role. It also showed the drastic difference in voice and speech between the actor and his Falstaff.

The play itself started with a surprise (production spoilers ahead in the following two paragraphs): Antony Byrne came onto the stage in Jeans, t-shirt, biker boots, armed with a mobile phone he promptly used to snap selfies. As much as I roll my eyes over the recent selfie-craze, this was funny and a very current and relevant beginning, fitting brilliantly with ‘rumours’.

Another great moment of interweaving different settings into one scene came later in the play when Henry IV seemingly enters what we see as Mistress Quickly’s rooms where she and Doll are sleeping.

What I said about the company in my review of part 1 still holds up. Almost everyone is pulling their weight, some of the actors reappearing as different characters still panting after a quick change. Unfortunately, Alex Hassel did not convince me at all that this Hal was going to become Henry V. An overtrained lat does not a king make. In fact, it makes you look as if you were constantly bowing (bear with me, I used to do this for a living, so those things still jump out at me) which is not very kingly at all.

On the other end of the spectrum, Antony Bynre’s Pistol was a riot who had the audience in stitches and I thought Paola Dionisotti was a fantastic Mistress Quickly. Oliver Ford-Davies and Jim Hooper were hilarious as Shallow and Silence.

I would love to see this cast do Henry V, but with a different lead actor who can actually make me believe that there are people willing to follow him to their almost certain deaths.

Henry IV, Part 1 – RSC live broadcast

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I could brain him with his lady’s fan.

Henry IV, Part 1 – May 14, 2014

Directed by Gregory Doran

Cast: Elliot Barnes-Worrell, Martin Bassindale, Jasper Britton, Antony Byrne, Sean Chapman, Paola Dionisotti, Nicholas Gerard-Martin, Jonny Glynn, Robert Gilbert, Nia Gwynne, Alex Hassell, Jim Hooper, Youssef Kerkour, Jennifer Kirby, Sam Marks, Keith Osborn, Leigh Quinn, Joshua Richards, Antony Sher, Simon Thorp, Trevor White, Simon Yadoo

After the successful broadcast of Richard II last year, the RSC is now continuing with Henry IV (part 2 follows in June). Started off with a charming and informative interview of Gregory Doran (NTL, you might want to take notes of how these are done. Kudos to Suzy Klein.) who admitted having unsucessfully looked for his Falstaff until Ian McKellen called his attention to the fact he was actually living with him.

McKellen seems to have been right too, as Antony Sher delivers as Falstaff. Unfortunately, he is hung out to dry in one of the – in my opinion at least – most important scenes of the play. When a little game of impersonating Henry IV berating his son turns serious

– banish not him thy Harry’s company: banish plump Jack, and banish all the world. –

Hal’s

I do, I will

can break the audience’s hearts if done right and at the same time show that there is a future king in hard partying Hal and he is aware that he will some day have to take responibility and cut ties with those he now calls friends. In this case, the line fell completely flat and I didn’t buy Hal’s reaction at all.

That was also one of the two major issues I have with this production. While he is doing a fine job as the party prince, I can’t see this Hal ever becoming Henry V. I wouldn’t follow him across a zebra crossing at a green light on a deserted road without double checking the traffic, let alone unto the breach. Actually, I would probably have to fight the urge to yell ‘Oh, shut up!’ in a Monty Python voice before following Poins into some harebrained scheme instead of Hal into battle. I am however still giving him the chance to convince me in part 2.

The second issue is unfortunately of no less importance as it is Hotspur. What should be a hot-headed, ambitious upstart, is shown as an overgrown 2 year old constantly throwing temper tantrums. Despite his penchant for biceps curls, he appeared absolutely unmanly to me to the point where they should have changed Kate’s reaction to him going to battle to being relieved of getting rid of him. I can’t imagine any grown woman wanting this child in her bed or battle-worn warriors being willing to start a revolution with him at the helm.

After all this, the big surprise is the big fight between the two Henrys. Fight director Terry King gave the actors quite the task there and both absolutely rose to the occasion. The camera direction also managed to keep up with the fast paced fight very nicely. We got a glimpse of this earlier during a featurette in the interval after which I wondered even more about the decision to play Hotspur like they did, as the actor seemed to be a very bright guy in the interview.

Out of the rest of the cast, Antony Byrne stood out for me. I already noticed him in Richard II, the guy does fantastic work with his voice.

It probably didn’t sound like it, but I liked this production and am looking forward (and hoping for some glimpses of regal potential in Hal) to part 2 in two weeks.